Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Engage Customers Online or Offline? Microsoft Goes Brick-and-Mortar

It struck me as ironic that a leading technology company puts in motion an engagement strategy that hinges on a brick-and-mortar foundation.  Microsoft opened it’s first store in Scottsdale, AZ today specifically as a way to better connect to customers.  While it may be an attempt to be on a level playing field with Apple (I hear the Microsft store has a similar format), the fact remains that in each case, these two companies founded on technological innovations feel the need to invest in direct connections with consumers.

What about the promise of social media?  This is where the customers are, online.  This is where and how you need to engage with them.  Blog, create fan pages, converse on Twitter.  Brick-and-mortar is dead as is TV, print, and all other traditional marketing efforts.

The fact is, if you want to grow and maintain your business, you need to offer multiple communication and connection points to your customer.  You need to be where customers are regardless if it is digital or tangible.  Some of your connection points are highly scalable, some are more intimate.  Each serves a purpose in your marketing arsenal.  Each can compliment each other.

I don’t know that Microsoft stores will be successful in the long run.  Gateway, Dell, and other technology companies have tried the brick and mortar model and failed or at least haven’t done well.  I think it depends on how Microsoft defines success of the stores.  If the over-riding strategy is truly to create customer connections over stellar store sales, then the storefront may well prove its usefulness and ROI.  Staying on that course though will be challenging when sales may be low and operating costs are not balanced out.  If sales are important, the coming holiday season may be an indicator if Microsoft made the wise investment.

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Filed under: CMO seat, communication, customer relationship, social media marketing, , , ,

The Meaning of Engaged

Everyone is trying it, getting engaged.  No, this is not diamond rings, white dresses, and planning the party of the century.  We’re talking about customer engagement.  If the point of social media is to be ‘social’ with your customers, how is this working for you.

Much is being written on how social media is being used inappropriately as just another direct marketing outlet to hurl messages and content at the market.  In fact, you should check out the article by Jacob Morgan on SmartDataCollective regarding just this.  So, I’m not going to focus on that.  The point is really to understand what the meaning of ‘engaged’ really is.

People like to use the analogy of a party in how to engage with customers.  I’ve even used this.  However, to be fair, party conversation is usually banal and lacking in substance.  Most of the time, people are still talking at each other.  What is more interesting is how people move from talking at each other to listening to each other and forming a bond.  Bond = Engaged

As soon as you say you want to engage customers, here are some things to ask:

  • What does engagement look like to you?  
  • What does engagement look like to the customer?  
  • Is the engagement positive or negative? (happy revenue generating marriage or costly bitter divorce?)

What engagement looks like has as much to do about the mechanism and topic as it does the timing.  Social media can support various points in a customer life cycle from prospect to entrenched customer.  Each point will offer different ways and topics to bond with customers.  Positioning your social media marketing efforts only to focus on the front end of a marketing funnel is most likely going to result on a narrow lift as discussion is more focused around, “Hey, let’s get to know each other!”  Great if you are acquiring customers, not so great if you have an established market and looking to drive deeper relationships with existing customers.  

How the customer perceives engagement needs to be taken into account.  Its time to move your tried and true marketing strategies to the back burner now and listen to how customers want to engage.  Put on your product and offer hats and think about social media marketing as an offer or service.  See how they interact with other brands.  Get to know their preferences and personalities.  Identify what they experience.  Provide a venue that encourages participation and interaction in a way that they themselves would find appealing.  Much goes into the development of online retail sites to make finding, researching, and purchasing products easy and intuitive. Using this same approach for social media will make your customers feel at home and open them up to engagement.

In the end, you and your customer need to bond, and hopefully around a positive experience.  As much as the goal today may be to build stronger relationships by engaging customers, ultimately your efforts should directly or indirectly drive revenue or lock in loyalty.  Failing to meet expectations and continually charm customers in traditional communication and service models is also a real possibility in social media.  Additionally, social media is only a single component of the customer experience, failing in other areas is not going to be fixed merely through social media engagement.

If you are going to ask your customer for their hand in holy matrimony, make sure the diamond ring isn’t just a token, engagement should lead to a committed and collaborative marriage.

Filed under: social media, , , , , ,

It’s Not About You, It’s About Me!

B2B marketing tends to be very company focused.   Companies care only about their objectives.  Look at my product and solution.  Come to see me at my event.  Purchase the solution before midnight so that I can make my quota.  Look what analysts are saying about me.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your customer.  IBM created a brilliant commercial that illustrates what happens when you stop thinking about what you think is great (you) and listen to what the customer cares about (them).

We are all passionate about what we are selling.  We want that passion to be contagious.  But, it still has to resonate with the customer.  You can call it relevency of content.  I tend to think about it in terms of, “What’s in it for me, the customer?”

The customer doesn’t care that if they buy your solution you make money.  They want to know you are solving their issue.  They want to know that you will be there support them in doing so.

So, listen carefully to what they have to say.  Help them and yo help yourself.

Filed under: customer relationship, sales, , , , , , , ,

When You Think Your Customers Make Bad Choices

I’ve come across a number of posts recently from social media consultants about the difficulty they face when competing for business against new entrants of social media experts.  I also had an interesting conversation with an agency about what to do when the customer does not take your advice and then blames you for the failure at the end of the project.  In each of these instances at various points of your customer relationships you face challenges of customers making what we consider bad choices.  We often take the approach of trying to educate the customer on why they are wrong and usually we lose in the end.  Here’s the secret, customers make bad choices because we have failed to connect.

Seth Godin spoke elegantly when he said in a recent post,  “Too often we close the sale before we even open it.”

As much as we are called upon for our expertise, the customer has their own preconceived notions about how to go about being successful.  They have as much experience or more in their career and role, the are well regarded in their company.  They need our help, but we are there to make them succeed through flawless execution. We may know more about a topic or approach.  We may even have a better way of doing things.  We know what is best, isn’t that why we are talking to them or working on their project?  But, what is really happening in these situations is that we haven’t really given the customer the right choice.  They haven’t been part of the exchange of ideas.  They don’t understand us.

It is easy to blame the customer for bad choices whether it is who they choose to run a strategic project or change the project plan to something that fails.  In the then, the failure was ours and we need to take some responsibility for that.  We could have done better.  Here are some things to consider to help you customer make better choices.

From a sales engagement perspective, positioning against a competitor is a tricky business.  You certainly want to understand who is out there and how you compare, so ask.  However, you also have to realize that there are some things that are difficult to recognize during the decision process.  Budget is at times at the heart of a decision, but a couple thousand dollars usually doesn’t make or break who wins.  There are things I’ve found while on the client side that may shed light on why you lose in a bid.

  • Inability to solve the problem – After lengthy discussions about the problem faced, the consultant comes back with a boiler plate proposal and cost without aligning to the conversation and showing how the proposal benefits the customer.
  • Inappropriate references – Successful projects are shown and customer references provided but they don’t fit with the clients business or problem.
  • Passing the “beer test” – I had an executive discount a highly successful and experienced consultant simply because he couldn’t work with them. He just didn’t click with them.  He even agreed that they were spot on for the project.
  • Poor or Adequate past performance – Clients may not be fully satisfied with past work or the working relationship to consider continuing.  A project may have been completed and good feedback came back, but the customer was not wowed.

Now that you have the project, it doesn’t stop there.  Building and nurturing the relationship have to continue into the project.  The proposal for the project is typically a rough outline.  You still need to help the customer through the process.  As a client, the best consultants followed these practices.

  • Understand how the client thinks a project should be carried out and why
  • Be prepared to show how the client’s approach has been successful or unsuccessful in other situations
  • Recognize that the client is influenced by internal culture, resources, and past experience that may hinder your the project or ideas
  • Be flexible to utilize customer ideas and augment them to improve results
  • Recognize that if the client does not choose you or rejects your idea you missed something about the project
  • Guide the customer to your approach by helping them realize this is the best option
  • Do not 0utright reject customer input or tell the customer they are wrong

It may take a bit more time, but you’ll be rewarded for your ability to know your customer and have them know you.

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Filed under: customer relationship, sales, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Be Available, Be Open, Just Be There to Connect

We (my family) recently moved to a new community and needed to settle in.  Interestingly enough the easiest part was the unpacking and organizing.  The hard part, connecting to and building relationships with neighbors and others in the community we seem to have pulled it off, at least according to others.  In fact, people ask how it is that we were able to fit right in in such a short time when they or others had been here longer and didn’t know or become friendly with anyone.

It really came down to a state of BEING.

It may be stating the obvious for marketing.  However, I’ve seen many a client and company fail at marketing efforts and conversion simply because they are not where the customer is.

Building relationships is hard.  Networking is hard.  Step by step guides or top tips aside, the reality is that you have to jump out of your comfort zone and put yourself on the line.  There is the direct rejection and then there is the indirect rejection of avoidance.  I think in some ways it is easier to get over the direct rejection than avoidance.  At least you know what you did.  Silence can feel alienating.

Here is how I think marketing can focus on building relationships with customers and break out of long held patterns.

  • Be available for customers when they are ready.
  • Be open to customers for dialogue.
  • Be there, where the customer is.

If you follow these simple rules and start every marketing effort with BEING, whatever you want to communicate to your customer will get there.  If there is a fit between the value you have to offer and their need, just the fact that you are there will make you successful.

Marketing has shifting from one way company/product centric communications to customers calling the shots on how you need to connect with them.  You want them to attend events, listen to webinars, read your blogs and articles, buy your products.  However, if you are not there in availability, openness, and state, you will not connect.

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Filed under: networking, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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